Educator Booker T. Washington said it best, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” A motto that eternal optimist Candice Harvey lives by. This small-town girl is making an impact in a big way.
The high school valedictorian from Brundidge, Alabama, graduated from Fort Valley State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Troy University in 2017.
As a program analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Washington D.C., Harvey helps support the country’s diverse agricultural operations. The eight-year veteran reflects on her experiences at FVSU and her success with a career in agriculture.
Why did you choose to major in agricultural economics?
“I was in a business and finance academy in high school and heavily involved in 4-H. My Extension agent told me that as a minority and someone who has a bright future ahead, I should think about agriculture as a major. A guy who works for the USDA stopped through my small town looking for students interested in majoring in agriculture.”
Why Fort Valley State University?
“During the summer of my junior year in high school, I applied for the USDA 1890 National Scholars Program and to five different Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on the list. FVSU was so helpful, and I felt like it was a good move. I’ll never forget my parents and I driving to Fort Valley on June 25, 2009, and hearing on the radio that Michael Jackson had died. My mom, who is a huge fan, cried the entire ride, but when we arrived on campus, she stopped. That was my sign. Everyone rushed out of the Pettigrew Center to welcome us. They gave an awesome presentation, which made me fall in love with recruitment. I met everybody who would be a part of my college career on that first day. It was such a family-knit ordeal and the best decision of my life. I knew I was in the right place.”
How did FVSU prepare you for your career?
“Fort Valley prepared me for life. When I stepped into that first summer internship with USDA, I felt extremely confident and knowledgeable. I felt like I belonged. Part of that confidence comes from the way I was raised. When you walk into a room, you own it, not in a cocky way but in being sure of yourself. Fort Valley reinforced that. Although I’ve always been self-propelled, they made me see beyond what I thought I knew about myself and what I could do.”
How do you apply those skills on the job?
“My professors encouraged me to be good at multiple things that connect to agriculture. When I started working with USDA, I could think beyond what others saw, which came to be very helpful as a program analyst. I know how to get to the answer without having all the factors. That’s a very specialized skill. It’s the little things that I learned studying for my degree at Fort Valley that helped me to be great at my job.”
What is unique about your position?
“I’m working for everyday food security and to make sure everything is accessed fairly. I read case files most of the day, but I can touch just about everything that our office handles. My role changes every day. From Monday through Friday, I may have had five different jobs. I take great pride in being somebody who people feel comfortable coming to for answers.”
How has your career in agriculture changed your life?
“Agriculture puts me in many rooms that I know not everybody will have privy to. Now I’m getting access to other doors that I hadn’t even considered because of the role I’m in. I don’t take it for granted that I work in our nation’s capital. My agency named me a cultural transformer three years ago because I believe in diversity. I believe in everybody having a voice and something valuable to contribute.”
What motivates you to do your best?
“Somebody will get to live out their dream or get to experience the things that I’ve experienced if I go through the door first. That’s what keeps me going a lot of days. It’s about somebody else who needs to know that someone ahead of them has taken a couple of more hits than they have to take so that it’s a little easier for them.”
What does success mean for you?
“Success is being happy and able to take care of myself financially and emotionally. It’s being able to travel, take care of those I love the most and to do good in the world. It’s being able to look at myself every day in the mirror and still be proud of me. That means I’m doing something right in the world.”
Harvey is the daughter of the Rev. Randy and Marilyn Harvey of Brundidge, Alabama. Her future goal is to pursue a doctorate and become an educator at an HBCU.